Health Care in Australia
Healthcare for Visitors to AustraliaIn general, Medicare benefits are only available to permanent residents of Australia.
However, Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA)1 with the following countries:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- Republic of Ireland
- The Netherlands
Residents of these countries can get 'some medically necessary treatments' while visiting Australia2.
Essentially, this means that if you are visiting Australia from one of these countries, you will receive the same treatment or benefits from Medicare as a permanent resident would receive.
But there are some limitations and it should also be noted that students from Norway, Finland, Malta and the Republic of Ireland aren't covered by this scheme.
Claiming from Medicare as a visitorEven if a visitor knows that he will need to see a doctor (perhaps for routine blood tests), he cannot get a Medicare card up front. The process is as folows:
Have a consultation with the doctor. The visitor will need to show his passport and depending on which country they are from, they may need to provide evidence of their healthcare entitlement back home.
If the doctor bulk bills, there is nothing to pay and no paperwork for the visitor. If the doctor does not bulk bill, the visitor will have to pay the bill in full.
The visitor then takes the receipt to a Medicare office, with his passport. Medicare will allocate a medicare number and will refund the Medicare entitlement. If it is likely that further treatment will be required during the visit, a medicare card may be ordered.
On subsequent visits to the doctor, the visitor can use his Medicare Card to prove his entitlement to Medicare.
It is recommended that visitors obtain adaquate travel insurance for the duration of their stay.
Private Health Insurance for visitorsDepending on the length of your stay, or other factors, you may find that normal travel insurance is not appropriate. In this case, you may want to consider Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC). Many of the Health Funds offer policies specifically for visitors on non-working visas, such as a tourist visa, ETA visa, retirement visa, sponsored family visitor visa etc.
Private Health Insurance for StudentsIn general, people who are visiting Australia on a student visa do not qualify for Medicare benefits and their visa is subject to Condition 8501 - that they maintain adaquate Private Health Insurance.
Many Health Insurers offer Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) which satisfy condition 8501.
Resources1Dept of Human Services Reciprocal Heathcare Agreements page.